All posts by keiramunsmith

I’m Upset: NYCFC loses to Seattle 1-3

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

In honor of my two teenagers and the young players on my favorite team, I have decided to release my NYCFC versus Seattle Sounders version of Drake’s “I’m Upset”.  It will most likely be cringe-worthy to many but it allowed me to work through my feelings of disappointment.  So thank you for humoring me.

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I’m upset
Only 3 wins on the road- it’s disrespect
Seemed wrong I know, I double-checked
Even with return of Jo Berget
Our shut-out streak had to end
I’m all verklempt
Got a lotta love for the Blue
Captain Villa, it’s kinda hard without you
Como está su rodilla?
Can’t win Cups without wins on the road
Every game New York fans expect a win
We have no stadium!
We still have 5 plus years of searching for a home
Atlanta sits up top of the chart with 47
Over in Jersey they talk a lot of trash but they’re still in 3rd.
Word to Coach Dome J- Lew finally seeing the pitch
Why the hell no Chanot?

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I’m upset
Travel 3000 miles, what’s the effect?
Dome worried about jet lag, can’t play their best
Maxi was spent
But this is MLS life
We got points to collect
So what’s next?
After an L to Seattle, what the heck?
Even with good clearances from Seb
At least Medina got one on a cross from Berget
In the end no effect
Only other offense was from Mata on the left
Where was halftime magic from Torrent?
Sean Johnson, we still love you, no disrespect
Got a lot of love for the Blue
Ring, it’s hard to win without you,
Thankful you’ll be back in the next one
Can’t win a Cup without wins on the road.

Domènec Torrent
Head Coach of NYCFC, Domènec Torrent.

Behind the lyrics

After New York City Football Club lost another match on the road to Seattle Sounders, the author/terrible rap lyricist talks about the return from injury of forward Jo Inge Berget, the continued absence of injured captain David Villa and how we still have no stadium to call our own.  In the MLS Eastern Conference,  Atlanta FC has 47 points with 23 games played, NYCFC has 43 points with 22 games played and New York Red Bulls has 41 with 21 games played.  Fans regularly express excitement that coach Dome Torrent continues to give Jonathan Lewis an important role as a “Super Sub”.

The game was about 3000 miles away from their previous game in Orlando three days prior and coach Dome expressed concern about the jet lag.  Fans noticed how unusually winded midfielder Maxi Moralez looked in the second half.

In the first half, Seattle scored two goals, yet NYC usually gets a big boost after halftime, even when they are down.  Alas, despite some strong attacking attempts and crosses by Ronald Matarrita, some good defensive clearances by Sebastien Ibeagha and a beautiful goal by Jesús Medina on a low cross by Berget, New York just couldn’t equalize.

It is also very apparent how vital to the team midfielder Alex Ring is and how deeply we felt his suspension due to yellow card accumulation.  Although I was disappointed in the loss, the team had recorded 4 shutouts prior to the loss and a great portion of the credit goes to stellar goalkeeping by Sean Johnson.  And yet, if City wants to win the MLS Cup, it’s essential that we record more wins on the road.

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Next game is home on Saturday, August 4th against the Vancouver Whitecaps.  Check out my colleagues’ coverage of the MLS All-Star Game on August 1st by following @mlsfemale on Twitter and Instagram.

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Dome said knock you out – NYCFC shuts out Columbus Crew 2-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Photos by Tisha Gale // @TishaGale

Between three home NYCFC games and the final rounds of Wimbledon and the World Cup last week, there was little spare time last week to do anything but take in the sporting spectacles.  And were they long ones- from 6-hour men’s Wimbledon matches to Croatia going to penalty kick shootouts in back to back matches, the key word was stamina.

Our own New York City Football Club tested their own stamina and fitness this past week with three games in seven days and came away with glowing marks earning three wins – all shutouts.  Last Wednesday, while walking into the press box, “Mama Said Knock You Out” was playing in the hallway and I immediately knew it was a good omen.  I mean who could forget the previous visit local legend LL Cool J made to Yankee Stadium?

This past Saturday New York City dug into the depths of the roster and into the magic of coach Domènec Torrent to pull out a huge 2-0 win over the visiting Columbus Crew.  You cannot talk about New York City’s success right now without adding the cherry on top which is that the team is winning without the injured David Villa.  This was unimaginable in prior years.

For the first few years of our club’s existence, he was our Obi-Wan Kenobi – our only hope. In this match the team had to face Columbus without Villa, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi and Jo Inge Berget – basically the whole forward line. In the absence of many obvious options, coach Dome started Rodney Wallace, Ronald Matarrita and Jesus Medina up top.

Watching the first half of the game at Yankee Stadium behind Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, I couldn’t keep my eyes off Medina.  He was everywhere trying to create plays, open up space, apply pressure, running at Steffen, making crosses and rebounding shots.  He was working his tail off.

Medina is only 21 years old and I know that NYCFC fans are impatient for a Designated Player to quickly start making “contributions” to the goal scoring rolls but I see a very calculated and cerebral player.  He looks like he’s always thinking and strategizing, yes sometimes to his detriment, but I believe he plays much better when NYCFC coaching and players give him the freedom to be creative on the field.

In the second half of this match, Medina executed beautifully on a pass from Jonathan Lewis,  smartly taking an extra second to hammer a shot accurately past Steffen.  Wingback Anton Tinnerholm added an insurance goal on a counter attack in which he successfully cut past the Columbus defender and Steffen, easily knocking the ball into the goal.  Looks of shock switched to giggles as he celebrated by karate kicking the corner flag.

Despite the score and the smart play of NYCFC, the game could have easily gone the other way as Columbus had 11 shots in the first half with 5 of them inexplicably going over the top or wide.  This was not an easy game by any means.

Much of this depth is due to Vieira’s building of the team last pre-season but the level and versatility of play seems to have improved in the past few weeks under Dome with game results speaking for themselves. Torrent has the expertise to see what the team is doing well and what needs to be adjusted pretty quickly and he must give incredible half-time talks.

All three games went to halftime with 0-0 scores and ended with shutouts. Dome also has been giving young players like Lewis and Kwame Awuah chances to contribute and switched things up by putting Matarrita into a more attacking role, something he’s done very successfully for his previous club and for the Costa Rican national team.

So was LL Cool J there in person last week bringing his previous good vibes or were they coming through via musical inspiration?  NYCFC’s next game is July 26th away at Orlando City Soccer Club.  I’m optimistic that the team can carry this successful momentum to the road. And Mr. Smith, please feel free to come to any and all games.

#SaveTheCrew

Images by Tisha Gale 

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC make an impact on Montréal, winning 3-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

New York City FC has a tight schedule this week and faced the second of its three opponents on July 11th at home versus Impact Montréal.  The game was a snooze fest in the scoreless first half, with very little happening offensively besides some fruitless crosses by NYCFC wing Rodney Wallace and some relentless verbal tormenting of Montréal goalkeeper Evan Bush.

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Something happened during half time though, (besides this wedding proposal, ripe with a “Marry Me” NYCFC jersey!)

The Boys in Grey came out with fire in their bellies and under their feet opening up the scoring flood gates with three beautiful and very different styled goals by Jesús Medina at the 60th minute:

Ronald Matarrita at 65′:

Jonathan Lewis at 76′:

After the second goal, Montréal seemed to lose all their energy, barely pressing forward.  Recently lethal striker Ignacio Piatti did his best to make runs, looking for something magical to come his way but City defenders Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha easily shut him down.  Montréal’s lack of high (or even medium) press, allowed NYCFC to play out of the back for much of the game, which thankfully gave goalkeeper Sean Johnson something to do as he didn’t need to make a single save.

Some intel I learned postgame:

  • Jonathan Lewis, despite being “half English” is rooting for France, admires the playing style of Kylian Mbappe and Raheem Sterling and “said [a while back] that Croatia would go to the [World Cup] finals.”
  • In a week with three tightly scheduled games, Sean Johnson spoke of the importance of rest to stay sharp and the team’s focus on tactics. Interestingly, Johnson regularly incorporates yoga and pilates into his training year-round.
  • Ronald Matarrita is “always trying to score goals” and hopes that we all get to know him a bit better as a player.

NYCFC faces the Columbus Crew on Saturday July 14th at home.  Remember when we had to play them at “home” at Citifield?  Related to that, a New York Times article was released during the Montreal game about another possible stadium site.

Someday we will have our own home…

Images by Tisha Gale and Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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NYCFC squeak past the NY Red Bulls 1-0 at the #HudsonRiverDerby

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Photos by Tisha Gale (& Keira Smith) // @TishaGale

Sunday, July 8: 1-0 Win

It feels like it’s been a long time since New York City Football Club has played at home in the Bronx. The atmosphere at the Hudson River Derby felt a bit like a huge family reunion, ripe with banners, glitter, costumes, drinking and dancing and the obligatory distant “cousins” who are loud, overly opinionated and wear strange clothing.  And yet, it would be a super boring event without them.  IMG_0154

If we’re being honest, we need to admit that for much of our club’s history, the New York Red Bulls have handed our heads to us on a silver platter. Granted, they’ve had many more years to develop the knife factory.  They figured out how to defeat NYCFC pretty consistently.

A few things going into the July 8th match:

  • This was less of a sure thing for RBNY as both teams had new (ish) coaches with Doménec Torrent having merely two prior games under his belt and with Chris Armas at the helm for the Red Bulls, promoted to Head Coach upon last weeks’s announced departure of Jesse Marsch.
  • The match was at Yankee stadium which is notoriously hard for visiting teams to handle due to its narrow width.
  • NYCFC had both David Villa and Jo Inge Berget completely out of the lineup with Berget’s absence a last minute unpleasant surprise.
  • RBNY were missing Florian Valot, who will be out for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL

The starting lineup mixed in some faces we haven’t seen in a while such as Rodney Wallace on left wing, returning from World Cup duties for Costa Rica and Maxime Chanot as a center back after a string of mysterious absences.  On paper, it also looked like Maxi Moralez had striker duties for this game.  Despite the return of some veterans to the starting XI, it was clearly not the same old tactics in facing the Red Bulls.

For this game, the dyed-in-the-wool “Play out of the back” strategy was not to be seen and instead, replaced by quick restarts of long balls to the wings by goalkeeper Sean Johnson.  Particularly in the first half, this was effective in countering RBNY’s previously deadly high press as NYC kept 61.3% possession and won 54.8% of duels.

However, of the 10 NYCFC shots on goal in the first half, 5 were blocked solidly by RB’s defense, one was saved by Robles and the others were off target.  City could not squeeze juice from the pretty pineapple.

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In the second half, the Red Bulls held much more possession and seemed to be consistently on the attack.  Chanot settled nicely back into the center back role, a position that he shared with Alexander Callens for this game, clearing aerial balls, destroying low shots with sliding tackles and making life difficult for Red Bulls star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.

And yet there was a point that fans began to think that we would be okay with a draw and taking the one point.  Then Jonathan Lewis came in for Rodney Wallace and the whole offensive rhythm changed with Lewis dancing and weaving, overall giving the RBNY defense more to contend with.  Nine minutes after he came on, Lewis served a ball across the goal to Moralez who buried it.  At that point, it was all hands on deck to defend and protect the lead.  Besides the combination that lead to the goal, it was not a pretty game but it did the trick.

A win is a win – especially without a “striker”.

Pretty fly for a non-striker
Maxi Moralez entering the stadium before the match vs the NY Red Bulls

Next game is Wednesday, July 11th at home versus the Montreal Impact.

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Images by Tisha Gale and Keira Smith

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Toronto FC fall to NYCFC 2-1 as Ant-man is swatted away

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Tisha Gale - NYCFC photographer/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Photographer

Photos by Tisha Gale // @gale_tisha

Sunday, June 24: 2-1 Win

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Starting XI. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

In New York City Football Club‘s first outing with head coach Domènec Torrent, they successfully slew visiting foe and defending MLS Cup champions Toronto Football Club 2-1 with little on-field drama.

However, in the days leading up to this game, the first after beloved head coach Patrick Vieira departed for his new position at OGC Nice, there were many doubts as to whether “Domè” would obtain work visa clearance in time for this game.  Fans speculated as to who would lead the team against Toronto, should Torrent be delayed.  Luckily, approvals came through and he was able to lead a short team training session on Saturday.  It wasn’t a shock however that there weren’t any big changes to the starting eleven from the draw with Atlanta United on June 9th.

Domènec Torrent
New head coach of NYCFC, Domènec Torrent. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Although NYC had more possession in the first half, they went down a goal when Victor Vasquez scored in the 37th minute.  The Boys in Blue stayed calm and continued to press and came out in the second half with more energy and verve.  Although City’s possession went down, they won more duals and utilized more crosses.

Fans didn’t have to wait long in the second half for the equalizer.  Jo Inge Berget cleverly and unexpectedly took a heel flick shot behind him on a pass from Jesus Medina and it was as if a collective sigh of relief was released in the stadium.  It was even now and anyone’s game.

At the 68th minute, Maxi Moralez weaved his way towards the goal releasing a centering pass which Berget perfectly placed into the back of the net. The stadium went wild.  A brace for Berget!  Did Domè successfully break the curse of Berget? Hope was alive and kicking with NYCFC fans in Yankee Stadium.

Jo Inge Berget
Jo Inge Berget poses for a photo with a young fan after the match. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

However, any  time we play Toronto, I am nervous about “the Silent Killer” (no not carbon monoxide), Sebastian Giovinco.  Giovinco can strike from anywhere at any time and you don’t see him coming.  Fortunately, NYCFC did an excellent job of containing him.

According to defender Ben Sweat, “Obviously Giovinco is one of the top players in the league.  We knew we had to watch the spacing behind and we knew we had to be smart and be tight with him.  With those kinds of players you have to be super aggressive and I thought the midfield did a really good job with that.  Shutting down Giovinco, shutting down Vasquez today.  It was good.”

Midfielder Alex Ring concurred: “Overall I think it was a good performance.  We played well between the zones and I was able to get a bit more offensive.”

The unfortunate side effect of this match was an injury to captain David Villa, who requested a substitution in the first half.  Details on his injury will be released later this week but Coach Torrent stated, “I spoke with him [Villa] and he told me it’s not serious. We are waiting for the doctor. I think it’s not bad, but maybe he needs one or two games.”  Fans are hoping for his quick and thorough recovery and, based on this performance, are optimistic that the team can continue to be successful even without him on the pitch.

David Villa
David Villa is out with an unspecified injury. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

One-Timers

It was the battle of the two smallest #10s in MLS. Giovinco’s nickname is “The Atomic Ant” while Moralez has been called “El Frasquito” and more recently “Spider-man”.

Thanks to an introduction by NYCFC president Jon Patricof, I got to meet one of the rare female referees in the world of soccer, Kathryn Nesbitt.  Nesbitt served as an assistant referee in this match.

All images: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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Nigeria’s win over Iceland 2-0 keeps Argentina alive

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group D: kickoff June 22nd

Nigeria is back! With a strong build-up of a quick aggressive offense, the Super Eagles stomped all over the World Cup dreams of beloved underdog Iceland.

Minutes before kickoff,  I ran into a young Nigerian-American family friend who would be nervously watching the game on his phone. We parted ways, crossing hopeful fingers that the young team would get their act together.

After a first half lacking solid goal-scoring chances, the Super Eagles came out in force in the second.  When Ahmed Musa, familiar to local Russian fans for his time as a striker for CSKA Moscow, scored in the 49th minute, I was out of my seat jumping up and down. (No offense, Iceland).  And then Musa did it again in the 75th, his brace pushing the lead to 2-0. They were doing it. Nigeria was keeping its hopes alive and I was riding that high from New York.

My 12-year-old son was having none of it. An ardent Cristiano Ronaldo fan, he can’t stand Lionel Messi and was relishing the downward spiral of his soccer icon nemesis (or “neMessis”?) and in turn, Argentina’s seemingly negative prognosis in this World Cup.

(Aside #1- I don’t condone the Messi hate but it started when he was quite young and there were some jerky Messi-obsessed classmates so I understand.) (Aside #2- He’s a Man City fan who likes Aguero so some of this passionate dissent makes no sense.) Now he loudly wailed “Argentina is still in thanks to Nigeria! Why couldn’t they just tie Iceland?”

When the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup, I embraced the chance to watch each game for the beauty of it versus worrying and strategizing about who the US should/would/could play next. When you don’t have a team that you die-hard root for, it can be liberating once you get past the disappointment.

Clearly, many fans including my son have alternative strategies for watching the games depending on their connection to a team or country or passionate disdain for another.   For now, nothing is settled in Group D.

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We will have more clarity one way or another on Tuesday, June 26th when Iceland faces Croatia and Nigeria faces Argentina at 2 pm EST. Matches play simultaneously, which stinks for fans who want to watch both games.  I’ll be watching the rematch of the 1994 World Cup duel between Argentina and Nigeria that hooked me into the Super Eagles’ football style. It’ll be a real feat if Nigeria can put a nail in Argentina’s 2018 coffin.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Los Ticos Troubled World Cup Run

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group E:  June 17th vs Serbia & June 22nd vs Brazil

Seriously who doesn’t love Costa Rica?  I want to know.

Fun facts about Costa Rica:

  • The Republic of Costa Rica abolished their military in 1949.
  • The nation is listed in various happiness indexes as having one of the most content populations on earth as well as being one of the most environmentally sustainable.
  • They are the source of beautifully delicious coffee enjoyed worldwide.
  • The country has 6 active volcanos.
  • The nickname for a person from Costa Rica is a Tico or Tica. Rooted in the Costa Rican Spanish diminutive “-ico” in contrast to other Spanish speaking countries’ use of “-ito”. The term indicates fondness or affection.

Los Ticos boast 5 players* on their current men’s national team from MLS and one HUGELY famous keeper for Real Madrid:

  • Francisco Calvo, Defender, Minnesota United
  • David Guzman, Midfielder, Portland Timbers
  • Marco Ureña, Forward, LAFC
  • Rodney Wallace, Midfielder, NYCFC
  • Kendall Waston, Defender, Vancouver Whitecaps
  • *Ronald Matarrita Defender, NYCFC was injured in training and replaced by Kenner Gutierrez
  • Keylor Navas, Goalkeeper, Real Madrid

So in other words, the players have soccer hermaniticos across the US, Europe and Latin America.

Costa Rica defeated the United States Men’s National Team in a 2018 World Cup qualifier making them partially responsible for the absence of the US team in this tournament.  Okay, well if you’re going to throw shade at them for any reason, that’s the only acceptable one.

A sea of Ticos flags in New Jersey
A sea of Costa Rican flags pre-gaming the USMNT vs Costa Rica World Cup qualifier in 2017.

However, Los Ticos’ first match of the World Cup versus Serbia ended as a 0-1 loss. Sadly the team failed to gain any solid attacking momentum against Serbia, who are a strong team who fly under the radar.

Yet, the result that hurt my heart much more deeply is the 0-2 loss to Brazil because they held them to a 0-0 draw until injury time.  Keylor Navas still has my vote for MVP of his group, if not the tournament thus-far, for his 90 minutes of denying Brazil’s offense.

Yes, he ended up letting in 2 goals in the end but most of the match felt like Navas against the entire Brazil team.  Costa Rica had about 3 counter-attack chances that fizzled out but most of the game was about defending and having one of the best keepers in the world as your last defense.

What a horrible way to lose and have all your World Cup dreams dashed.  To hold Brazil to nil-nil until 91 minutes and then lose.  I have to say that this one hurt and Neymar’s diving and whining was the salt in the wound.

As of now the group looks like this:

Keira Smith - Costa Rica/mlsfemale

Now Costa Rica will play their last match of the tournament Wednesday, June 27th against Switzerland in a match that can’t save their World Cup dreams but may affect the results in the group.  If Costa Rica gets a win against Switzerland and if Serbia defeats Brazil, Switzerland could be out of the tournament.  Chocolate and coffee do go well together…

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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Super Eagles fail to take flight: Nigeria fall to Croatia 0-2

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group D: June 16th Kickoff

I was excited to cover the Nigerian team for this World Cup, in many ways for sentimental reasons.  In 1994, my first live World Cup match was Nigeria vs Argentina in Foxborough stadium.  A young soccer player myself, I was in awe of the contrast of styles of the two teams and was won over by the strong, fast, physical style of the Super Eagles. Everyone was swooning over Diego Maradona but I was entranced by Rashidi Yekini and Jay-Jay Okocha.  Argentina ended up taking that match 2-1 but Nigeria took the group in overall points.

Keira Smith - Nigeria World Cup/mlsfemale
Drawing by @Lawyartist on Twitter. Used with permission.

This squad is a relatively young one led by Chelsea FC forward Victor Moses and the ageless Captain John Obi Mikel, formerly of Chelsea and who currently plays for Tianjin TEDA in China.  Looking at the players’ “day jobs” it shows a combination of experience in highly regarded European Leagues and lesser known and still-developing leagues in Asia.

The average age of the Nigerian player is 25, as compared to Croatia, who has a mean age of 27.  Nigeria’s range of caps is from 2 to 85 and their starting goalkeeper Francis Uzoho is 19 years old.  Coming into this Cup, Nigeria has the challenge of how to create team chemistry with the extreme differences in experiences and styles of play.

In this first match against Croatia, the lack of cohesion was evident rather quickly.  Croatia applied pressure, gained possession and built momentum while Nigeria seemed to lack a game plan, rarely moving the ball in a strategic and meaningful way.  There was a lot of pinball possession leaving the Eagles to scramble back to attempt to diffuse the Croatian attack.

Their speed and strength allowed them to largely keep up with Croatia, holding to 2 goals, with an unlucky own goal which ricocheted off the foot of Oghenekaro Etebo and the obvious holding in the box of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic by Nigeria’s William Ekong which led to Modric converting on the PK.   High notes were a few brilliant attacks by Moses and some fantastic saves by Uzoho.

Croatia is a strong team lead by Captain and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. “The Vatreni” (The Fiery Ones), come with a range of 1-106 caps and the majority of the players plying their trade in the premier European leagues.  They arrive at this World Cup with the cohesion of style, work ethic, and experience, which paid off in their opener.  I expect that Croatia will get even better and have the potential to go deep into this tournament, especially with the unexpected 1-1 draw in the other group match featuring Argentina and Iceland.

The Super Eagles will face Iceland on Friday at 11 am EST.  Iceland was very successful in its previous match defending against a powerhouse such as Argentina.  Nigeria will need to bring mental toughness, physicality, speed and an offensive game plan if they want to stay relevant in this tournament.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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The End of a Vieira in New York

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

A lot has been going down in the soccer ‘hood in the past week. It seems like every hour news is breaking in both the MLS world and internationally.  It’s been hard to catch your breath before something else happens.  Hot off the press is the big news that the joint bid for the FIFA 2026 World Cup by the US, Canada and Mexico was successful.  

The other news is the departure of head coach Patrick Vieira for OGC Nice and the subsequent announcement of the appointment of his replacement Domenec Torrent.  It’s been rumored for weeks that Vieira would be leaving and despite his denials, the club made its official announcement on Monday.  Not only did Vieira leave his contract mid-season but he took much of his supporting team with him including Christian Lattanzio,  Kristian Wilson and Matt Cook. I was not quite pleased.

New head coach Domènec Torrent brings a plethora of experience working under Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola as well as an endorsement from fellow Spaniard David Villa.  Fans expressed their optimism about Torrent over social media. 

Angela Singh, an active member of The City Celestes supporters group, wrote: “I personally am looking forward to seeing him and his style. He’s got AMAZING credentials (including being the former assistant coach for both FC Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona), and thus won a total of 21 trophies with both teams, the former head coach for Girona FC, and he helped Manchester City as they became the #Centurions and won the Premier League Cup this year!! I’m pleasantly surprised and completely sold – this guy seems like the one who will lead the “Boys in Blue” to the 2018 MLS Cup!”   

Dominic Torrent, Head Coach NYCFC
Domenec Torrent

The first game with Coach Torrent at the helm will be on June 24th when we host Toronto FC. 

Before we completely close the book on the Vieira Era, it’s important to reflect on his last game with New York City.  Hosting Atlanta United on Saturday June 9th had most fans both excited and nervous.  It was Military Appreciation day and featured the US Military Academy parachute team making an aerial entrance onto the pitch.  Atlanta fans were representing all over the stadium along with the anticipated packed and enthusiastic visiting supporters’ section. 

I have to mention our supporters’ section was in especially fine voice.

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NYCFC Supporters’ section filling in pre-game.

New York started with a 3-4-3 lineup which seemed to work extremely well against Atlanta, who have the league’s leading scorer in Josef Martinez.  Although Martinez did score against us, our defense especially Alexander Callens and Sebastien Ibeagha contained him well and made his job much more difficult.

Both Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco were basically non-issues.  Sean Johnson only had one save and claimed one cross. I was surprised at how well NYCFC moved the ball aggressively throughout the field and at the same time were able to apply many layers of defense on Atlanta.  I was expecting the team to be shaken by the rumors of their coach’s imminent departure as well as the lack of consistency in the starting lineup but I was wrong. 

Alexander Callens steals the ball from Josef Martinez.

We had chance after chance to score in this game with a vice of pressure applied to Atlanta’s defense however Brad Guzan was equal to the task making one incredible save after the other with 10 in total.  NY’s shot after shot were repeatedly hitting the posts and crossbar. Until the 77th minute when David Villa perfectly crossed the ball to Callens who finished it with a low, swift diving header that Guzan couldn’t touch. 

With all the chances by New York City, the score stayed even at 1-1, the same ending as when we visited Atlanta in April.  Although it’s hard to come away with only one point, it felt like a bigger picture win to see our Boys in Blue play so well against a strong team.

Atlanta United visiting supporters’ section looks on as Miguel Almiron goes down at Alex Ring’s feet.

Our difficult home stretch has seen us get 4 out of 6 points against two Eastern Conference playoff rivals.  All eyes will be on our new gaffer as we face our nemesis Toronto FC.  I’m optimistic.

All images: nycfc.com

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

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NYCFC humbles Orlando FC 3-0

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Saturday, June 2: 3-0 Win

The atmosphere for Pride Day at Yankee Stadium was joyful and optimistic.  Rainbow flags and scarves freckled the crowd and a rainbow of 49 colored seat overlays was laid out for the visiting Orlando fans by our own City in the Community youth. Accompanied by a first and second timer to a professional soccer game, I was excited to be back in the Bronx when it wasn’t pouring rain nor arctic cold.

In a surprising move, New York City FC coach Patrick Vieira did not start David Villa, opting for an initial lineup which included Anton Tinnerholm, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Jo-Inge Berget and Jesus Medina as attacking midfielders/forwards.  Was Villa not started in order to rest him for upcoming big games such as the US Open Cup versus the New York Red Bulls and next Saturday’s match versus Atlanta FC?

While NYCFC dictated much of the the pace of play, Orlando City FC‘s physically intense defending made it difficult to maintain extended possession.  Tinnerholm’s offensive minded style of play made for an easy transition to this role, as he worked well with Tajouri-Shradi and Medina.

Tajouri-Shradi continues to be our most reliable offensive player, with each touch seemingly calculated and deadly.  (He’s scored 7 goals from 8 shots on target this season!) Scoring two beauties in this game with the second goal a banana-style cross which hooked past Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

I was equally amazed on that ball, how all NYCFC players moved out of the path of that shot, somehow knowing its trajectory was the net.  Sebastien Ibeagha alone deserves an assist at worst and a Tony Award at best for his decisive deception and screening of Bendik.

NYCFC celebrates Isi's second goal.
Tajouri-Shradi is hugged by teammates Moralez and Tinnerholm after his second goal. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Speaking of reliable, no one has been more steady, if not spectacular than goalkeeper Sean Johnson.  This was Johnson’s 5th shutout of the season which he pulled out two point blank saves, his 49th and 50th of the season.

The biggest boss move of the game was when Orlando FC’s Sacha Kljestan was awarded a penalty kick and Johnson stood with his arms and legs reaching as wide as possible on the goal line.  Kljestan subsequently kicked the shot wide.  That PK would have tied the game and who knows how it may have changed the final outcome.

Sean Johnson post Orlando
Johnson celebrates his 5th shutout this season over Orlando FC. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

Unfortunately, a great majority of fans have completely lost all remaining patience for Berget.  His lack of finishing ability leaves most to scratch their heads, guessing Vieira’s rationale for continuing to start him.  Yes, he opens up space, he physically takes defenders on which does lend breathing room to teammates, but a striker’s job is to score.  No more excuses.  Berget got a chance to play his “real” position of striker and wasn’t able to produce.  Please sit him.

On the flip side, was the seemingly eternally benched wunderkind Jonathan Lewis who came into the game for Tajouri-Shradi in the 80th minute.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw his name on the screen and was excitedly shouting to my section “It’s Jonathan Lewis!  He’s actually coming in!” Most people smiled back politely as if to say “Okay, strange overenthusiastic person” but they don’t realize how much many of us have been clamoring for him to play this season.

In the 13 minutes he played, Lewis did not disappoint with his speed and ability to maneuver around physical defenders eventually initiating the play that lead to Maxi Moralez‘s goal in the 87th minute.  Hopefully, this is the start of the Lewis era in the Bronx.

Jonathan Lewis
Lewis on the attack. Image: Tisha Gale/mlsfemale

With the busy and challenging schedule ahead, we will need contributions from everyone.  See you after the US Open match against “The Team that Shall Not Be Named”.

All images by Tisha Gale for MLSFemale.

Featured image: Tisha Gale @gale_tisha

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

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